Yorkville Panel Tackles Racism and Overcoming Barriers During Special Black History Month Event

Thought Leadership

February 26, 2021

Yorkville University recently hosted a special Black History Month panel discussion Overcoming Barriers in Academic and Work Environments

Moderated by Yorkville’s Diversity Consultant Thamina Jaferi, hour-long virtual event saw panelists including Dr. Thommi Odom LawsonDaisy Wright and Garry Priam engaging on a number of different subjects. 

From “showing up authentically” in different academic and work environments, to the impact of racial trauma on mental health, to the responsibility of senior management and decision makers to actively set the tone for inclusion so it cascades down to the rest of the organization – no topic was left unturned.  

As a leadership consultant, national board-certified counselor and author of the newly released book Grace Space: Understanding and Implementing Work/Life Harmony, Lawson discussed some of the challenges she’s faced in both her corporate and academic lives. 

“In both worlds, I’ve always had to prove myself. I had to prove that my education came from a top college/university. Oftentimes, I have been challenged by students who say, ‘Do you have a PhD? Where did you get the PhD from?’” she said. 

“I have also been challenged by my peers, because they want to make sure you earned your seat, right? Sometimes that means we have to do more. I think the biggest challenge in both environments when showing up as one of maybe two minorities is that ‘black tax’ that I had to pay.”

Priam – the founder and president of Mossa International Inc., a management consultant company – shared similar experiences, noting that he often finds himself living two very separate lives: one as his authentic self and the other as his work self.  

“You have your weekend face that you put on, and then, on Mondays when you go to work, you have to tow the line with the organization that you’re with…so there’s this tug of war between two different sides and it can be exhausting,” he lamented.

One of the ways Priam suggests remedying this, he said, is through relationship building: “That’s how we break down barriers and that’s how we make people understand how we are and that’s how we understand other people, as well – taking an interest in other people and their cultures.” 

As the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of The Wright Career Solution and a certified career development practitioner, Wright said she hopes the recent shift towards workplaces adopting more diverse and inclusive practices is not just a passing trend. 

“I think we’re moving in the right direction. I hope these things will continue and that it’s not just performative statements that we’re hearing from all these companies and organizations, but that real change is going to happen,” she said. 

“I hope organizations will realize that diversity and inclusion…is something that has to be integrated into the system, where people feel that they belong, that they can contribute, that they’re not only at the table, but that their voices are being hear. 

To watch Yorkville University’s full, hourlong discussion on Overcoming Barriers in Academic and Work Environments, go to https://youtu.be/zreBxrK-TPY.

About the Panelists: 

Thamina Jaferi (Host)

Jaferi is an experienced diversity and inclusion professional and subject matter expert, with a background in law, human rights and equity. In her role as Yorkville University’s Diversity Consultant, she develops, implements and administers various diversity programs, education and training to advance and support a diverse and inclusive workplace and inclusive service provision in the higher education sector. 

Thomasina Odom Lawson

Lawson is a leadership consultant, national board-certified counselor and author of the newly released book Grace Space: Understanding and Implementing Work/Life Harmony. She provides a solutions-based approach that uniquely addresses the overlap of career success, interpersonal relationships and home life. While helping clients figure out strategies for enjoying work, dealing with difficult colleagues, or making better career choices, Lawson sometimes uncovers emotional issues that would sabotage success at a new position or company. She’s currently a member of Yorkville’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology faculty. 

Garry Priam

Priam is the founder and president of Mossa International Inc., a management consultant Company. He is also a keynote speaker, ProsciTM Certified Change Management Practitioner, organizational leadership and team development specialist, project manager and Italian author. Priam’s keynote speeches, workshops and seminars have helped companies and people around the world. He currently serves as chair of Yorkville University’s Bachelor of Business Administration Project Management Advisory Panel.

Daisy Wright

Wright is the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of The Wright Career Solution, a certified career development practitioner, and a certified career management and executive leadership development coach. For more than 15 years, she has collaborated with executives, managers and mid-career professionals to help them get hired faster. She is the author of three books: 21 Resilient WomenTell Stories, Get HiredNo Canadian Experience, Eh?, and has contributed to more than 10 others on resume writing, career and interview coaching, and the job search.